It doesn’t have to be expensive……

I loved this question and I think it’s something that a lot of people struggle with.
A good shot should of course include expensive things, right ?
Well actually not……

As you can see in the first image it can be very cheap and easy. In this case just a simple plastic material that is torn by the model (after she used it for some shots in front and behind it, in other words even with the cheapest material optimize the amount of shots you get out of it.


The best and most exciting shots are done (well at least for me) on location.
Use the location as a big prop, and do remember you can make a good shot in almost every location, don’t think it has to be an expensive hotel room, or a big church with stained window, the best locations are close to your home or maybe even in your home. I already did a blog post about this so I will not go into that too much, but for example when you go to a car junkyard you can shoot for days on end without running out of ideas.

Second hand stores
Make friends with your local dump/second hand stores.
They are a very large source for small things (or larger things) you can use, and if you have a good deal you could probably bring stuff back after the shoot or exchange it for something new after a while. This way you can buy awesome stuff for prices that vary between 0-100 dollar/euros.

One of my favorite chairs for example I got for free from our local second hand store, according to them it was beyond repair but because I wanted it I could take it with me for free, and to be honest this is the kind of stuff we want 😀

Oh and the material you see on the ground ? ……


Don’t shy away from materials. Without a doubt materials are a very important tool to spice up a shoot or work with when you’re out of ideas, or have a model with an imperfect skin 😀 often people will have some curtains etc. in the attic you can borrow and keep for your shoots. In our studio we have a large cupboard filled with cloths from different materials/colors etc. It’s great to work with and again it sometimes really opens up the creativity.

Markets or trash
Well ok I never go through other peoples trash, but you can find some funny stuff on markets.
The following shots were done with props the models brought with them or are bought by me at dump stores. And as you can see I even use my own cameras.

Creativity is something that is hard to learn.
Seeing options every where and in anything must be something that you train, and it will never stop so be prepared. I always say “It’s never quiet in my head” with this I don’t mean I hear voices of course but that I’m so aimed at seeing options to shoot that I see those options every where, and even than I’m often out of ideas, but it only takes a little prop the model brings with her to build the concept around that….. and that last sentence is VERY important.

There has to be a concept !!!
It has no use to just shoot a model holding a prop, make sure that the prop makes the story. If you follow that guideline you will love the effects you can get from your buck. And really often you can have loads of fun for 10.00 $ accessories. Everything you have seen above is often below that price.
Feel free to comment and share.

12 replies
  1. Brian Worley
    Brian Worley says:

    Indeed I’m starting a collection of fabrics and other small items for use in shoots. The only problem becomes storage or even overuse when you only have a few items. However with the cost being close to zero there’s a great opportunity to share the props round some fellow photographers. One of the best props was the frames from a set of 3D glasses from the local cinema.

  2. Leo Koach
    Leo Koach says:

    “Creativity is something that is hard to learn”… I believe creativity comes with birth. If you have it, you have it; if you don’t, I don’t think it can be learned or taught. Some people do have creativity hidden which needs a little push to bring it out… such as “How to use a camera”. It’s a technical thing, even person can imagine the outcome (see the picture in mind) just can’t put it into real world because lack of knowledge of the cameras (for example). You heard “Why didn’t I think that before”… if you think you’re using this sentence a lot, that means you don’t have creativity. However, if you only use it once and twice, and come up either same or better results (idea wise), that means you have creativity. And last, sometimes people need opportunity for creativity. Such as finding right model, going to a right location, using right tools etc.nnI like the sample photos here, pretty inspiring. Inspiration is the fuel of creativity… you should also tell this your students sometimes 😉

    • Anders C. Madsen
      Anders C. Madsen says:

      Uh-oh…I think we’re heading into a disagreement here….!nnYou will have to pardon my french, but that is simply a load of elitist crap if I ever saw some! “If you have it, you have it; if you don’t, I don’t think it can be learned or taught.” You simply have to be kidding. nnAnyone is creative from birth and they stay that way their entire life. Period. nnLonger version:n- and given the right circumstances and possibilities, they can use that creativity for a number of artistic endeavours, photography being one of them. nnHowever, a lot of people are brought up to believe that they somehow has to conform to other peoples way of thinking and way of living and thusdevelops a fear of being rejected from the society and social circles they live in, a fear that is far stronger than the desire to express and explore the creativity within them.nnTake these people away from what they know, put them in a situation where nothing they know has any value and nobody they know is around them, and I guarantee you that you will see creativity exploding, even from people who has made a life out of being boring, predictable and without any display of creativity whatsoever. People are BORN to be creative – otherwise our species would have been wiped out a very long time ago. nnYou don’t teach anyone to be creative – you teach them to break free and ignore what everybody may think of them and do what THEY feel like doing, not what the rest of the world expects them to be doing. Call it “doing what your heart tells you”, call it “creativity” – I don’t care, it’s the exact same thing. nnFrank, I’m sorry, normally I really enjoy your blog and the comments here, but this one goes so fundamentally against anything I believe in that I just could not let it pass.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      My response was aimed at the remark : inspiration is the fuel for creativity. nnTHAT I tell my students every workshop, get online look at images, look at MTV, be inspired that will get the juices flowing. nnAbout being born with something …..nWell I’ve taught many people and some will progress like crazy and some are in a standstill while being excellent at their “day/other” job. nnI’m no scientist so I did not want to respond to the first story but I do agree with that last part. Without inspiration no creativity. nnI do THINK you can learn a lot but sone people are more “creative” than others. I for example am no star in math. But I was always very good with computers and person to person sales. While some of my friends just shut down when they were 1:1 with a customer. nnI do THINk people are born with different talents, but we are ALL gifted. But I do believe that everything is possible but maybe some people have to work harder. nnSo in short I do believe we are all born different. But it should NEVER hold you back. Put in enough passion and time and everything is possible. nnSo that’s MY PERSONAL opinion 😉 a bit refined. Sorry I was to short in my last reply and gave you the wrong idea.

    • Leo Koach
      Leo Koach says:

      Frank, creativity is imagination for me. I always see the photo in my mind before I take it… like painter, sees the finished painting before he or she starts… musician can hear the song before even written… I don’t think these kinds of abilities belongs to everyone… and that’s why we have masters, and not everyone can be a master or teacher… or even successful if “creativity” is not there.

    • Anders C. Madsen
      Anders C. Madsen says:

      @LeonActually I don’t think we’re that far off from each other – I agree that everyone may find different outlets from the creativity within them and that it may not necessarily be photography that is that particular outlet. What I took objection too was the remark about not being able to learn creativity, and it looks like that was not really what you meant.nn@FranknWorld order restored. 🙂 n

    • Leo Koach
      Leo Koach says:

      Creativity is a gene in human body… like gender. You are one or another, sometimes it is confused but at the end you are what you are. As frank said, it is sometimes hidden deep into mind that Frank and others try to surface it by teaching techniques… However, there is a limitation to teaching. If your theory correct, then we all are masters in a sense… and why not? Cameras are the same, teaching is the same.nnYour comment to my comment also fundamentally and totally against what I believe, but that’s what you are and this is what I am. Also, I have to point out one more thing, I don’t put creativity in all professions, so, if you can’t take pictures, maybe you can paint, or sing… but I I would suggest people who can’t take photos after many years of teaching and practicing, do what you can do, don’t waste your time with it.nnFrank, you’re the best on your answers and I mean it 🙂

  3. @iRomby
    @iRomby says:

    I see I will be able to use a room filled with old stuff after all 😉 even my parents hideous green drapes will come in handy one day 😉

  4. Eero
    Eero says:

    Gotta love cheap props I need to find a big pencil or other school items in large size.nnPs did you figure out why photos appear cut off on iPad, or is it just my iPad, or word press related issue or setup? It does not bother Me much as I just save the photo if I like it and view it with photos viewer.

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